Education and its role in emerging markets – Indonesia

I have just participated in the EHEF (European Higher Education Fair) in Indonesia where we presented graduate and undergraduate programs in Samarkand and Jakarta. It has been a hectic week with around 15’000 participating students and over 100 European universities and higher education institutions as well as representatives from embassies and the EU.

The success of the fair and the eager questions form the students reaffirm my belief in education as a key indication for how Indonesia is rapidly moving ahead.  With a GDP growth of 6,2% a drop in poverty and school enrolment exceeding 100% spurred by more and more overage students enrol in primary school. Indonesians have their eyes firmly targeted at education.

In the years to come I believe that Indonesia will benefit enormously from the education strategy in several key areas.

First, today Indonesia is a multicultural and multi-religious society blending its own unique history with Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and many other religions together. However, as seen elsewhere economic development also have the backside of creating social tensions as some embrace and utilise the opportunities fully, while others feel left behind. What education can help with in this process is to ease the social tensions by providing a more even playing field (or at least as close to as possible) for young people who have talent. While there are differences in access to the best schools and especially for students access to education in Europe and the US it is significant it’s a significant contributor to mitigate the risk of social tensions.

Secondly, it will bring Indonesians in contact with the world in another way than business can. Through the social interaction between students from the countries they travel to and other international students networks are created which will benefit not only themselves, but also ensue long term social and economic sustainability as students become business and government professionals and need contacts that they trust around the world.

Thirdly, It brings knowledge to Indonesia, which is much needed in the years to come if the growth is to be supported and managed. One of the threats that the country is facing is that huge bubbles are created in the economy being in housing or specific sectors. Just taking a look from my one window at the hotel reveals five skyscrapers being build so it is definitely a risk that one have to take serious. And while bubbles is a natural part of a capitalist economy the impact can be cushioned though a economy which is build one more sectors and have more players. As students take business ideas back with them they create new businesses and thereby diversify the economy bringing a valued stabiliser into the equation.

While there are critical voices around the growing internationalisation of undergraduate and graduate education, as it is seen to some as a business rather than an “exchange” of ideas. It think that the benefits significantly and especially long-term far outweighs the downsides.

Young and unskilled workers gets left behind

Unemployment among 16-24 year old young men who are members of unions who organized the most unskilled labour has tripled since 2007. In Denmark the unemployment among the young at 12% but this is nothing compared to countries like Spain were the unemployment among the young is around 40%. Even though there is reason to be worried about this group.

Thomas Bredgaard a researcher within the labour situation in Denmark and associate professor at Aalborg University explains that the current crisis in employment has eliminated the kind of jobs that young men usually had.

He says that – All forms of youth unemployment is worrisome. The young unskilled workers are already the group at greatest risk of being marginalized in the labor market. They risk being overtaken by the new generation. Especially those who come with an education and some vocational skills, assesses Thomas Bredgaard.

He sees an imminent risk that these young men are marginalized in the future labor market and in society. Also because they risk being overtaken by a new generation that comes with training and professional skills that companies need. Skills, which the young people can’t get themselves mainly because they lack the ability and/or willingness to acquire them.

If the situation is to be changed, there is no other option but to get the young men engaged in a vocational education that are in demand in the labor market. This means that we need to change some of the approaches we have had to the academification of the educational system were it requires a lot of reading and academic work to become a plumber, mason or carpenter.

Thomas Bredgaard continues – Unfortunately, not all suitable education and have ambitions in this direction. Yet it is important to get the job centers, education and the other players on the pitch in order to come up with workable solutions. The more time that passes, the harder it becomes to solve the problem, he said.

Thomas Bredgaard emphasizes that he is not educational researcher, “but there are indications that these boys are already losing interest in learning while they go to school.”

– Meanwhile, it was so easy to get jobs during the boom that led some to neglect the need for an education. Now it seems that the crisis hit Denmark extra hard, and it becomes even harder for them to get a foothold in the labor market, says the researcher.

My holiday reading list on business in society

Here is my list of summer holiday readings you might think that there somewhere in there is something you could find interesting.

Some reading on shareholder value from the people who practice what they preach.

Doing some research on how CSR policies and practice is influencing the role of the state.

Literature on trends in the world of sustainability


And some classics

Just want to add that the authors might not share my own opinions and beliefs on the positions that they are arguing. I think that any good researcher should know the field in which he or she is active and this also entails knowing the ‘other’ argument maybe even better than the position, which you are yourself have taken.